Iowa State has been busy in the last two recruiting classes compiling talent upfront on the offensive line. The first lineman we’re going to profile was one of the priorities for the 2020 class, Hayden Pauls.
Iowa State zoned in on the 6ft 4in Hayden Pauls early in the 2020 recruiting cycle, hosting him for several visits during the 2018 season. He is a 3-star recruit coming out of Emporia, Kansas. He held offers from Iowa, Kansas, and Kansas State. He also was one of the early enrollees this spring and would have been pretty up to speed had it not been for the COVID-19 outbreak.
Our last profile featured the big wide receiver, Daniel Jackson. Now we will dive right into the much larger guys, offensive linemen.
Matt Campbell and his staff like to target versatile offensive lineman. We have not had a single recruit since Campbell’s hiring that was limited to one area on the offensive line, and that remains true with Hayden Pauls. After watching his film, he looks like a guard that is also effective at the tackle position. The way he can get up field to the second level of defense really translates to the guard position and what Tom Manning does with his run fits.
Pauls reminds me a little bit of Bryce Meeker, but a Bryce Meeker that is explosive at the second level of a defense. Meeker could play all over but he head certain limitations that kept him from taking the next step. Pauls hasn’t even played a down of college football yet, and that allows him to have tremendous upside to fly right past that.
I am going to give you his entire junior season highlights and pick a few plays out here that I really think fit into what Iowa State is trying to do on the offensive line.
Iowa State pulled their left tackle on occasion last season but not enough to make you think it’s a staple in the offense. This is one of the reasons I think he projects at the guard position. When he came from his stance to pull, his eyes never left the second level of the defense. This allowed him to keep his body in line to make the turn around the down blocking. All this aided him in finding his block at the second level quickly and effectively. One of Iowa State’s biggest downfalls on the offensive line the last two seasons has been finding that second level block. You can go and watch game after game and see the missed blocks at the linebacker depth that if they were to hit Iowa State scores on any given play. They just were never made. So you go out and get a guy that knows how to do it. Hayden Pauls is that dude.
Play 5 & 6:
Pure nastiness. While I do think Iowa State’s offensive line has some B.A. Mother ****ers on the offensive line for 2020, there is always room for a dude that is willing to kick the crap out of you on any given play. I mean, that is legitimately what offensive line really comes down to. You can see on these two plays that Pauls makes great contact on a run play and then a passing play. Not only does he make the blocks on each of these plays, but he absolutely dynamites both of the opposing players. You have to love seeing that.
I think these three plays are a pretty good indication of the type of player that Iowa State will be getting.
I am struggling to really pin point an accurate comparison for Pauls. I have mentioned he reminds me of Bryce Meeker but his upside appears to be much greater than that. Cody Whitehair of the Bears may be the go-to here. Whitehair, much like Pauls, has been very adaptable to coaching and position changes over the years. Whitehair not only spent a ton of time out at tackle, but now he’s playing guard and center in the NFL. It goes to show that being able to play multiple spots at any given time can get you a long way in the game of football. During his time at guard, Whitehair has excelled at getting to the second level, though that has been minimized a bit lately as he has been a center for the Bears the last few seasons.
Pauls’ current level of play is a tremendous fit for Iowa State. What we have seen from some of the Iowa State offensive lines in the past is that they lack the ability to make impact blocks at the second level. I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but it’s a big deal in Iowa State’s offense. When asked to do it, Pauls not only gets there but is explosive at doing so. It’s things like that which could take an Iowa State running attack to the next level.
Hayden Pauls will be a tremendous athlete on the on the offensive line. His ability to be explosive and use some of that “lineman speed” is going to be a fun thing to figure for the coaching staff. He does bring some things to work on - sometimes he plays too high - and with experienced college level defenders that may get him in trouble. Fear not, there is plenty of time to correct that issue, though it’s not even a major one. High school-level lineman tend to player at higher levels.
The tackle position for Iowa State is more than likely going to be locked down for the next few seasons, though guard may have an opening sooner than later depending on the development of Trevor Downing. Pauls certainly will redshirt this coming season, and take the time adjust to the college game and build his body, which could certainly positions him into a tackle spot rather than guard. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see his name popping up into the two-deeps sooner rather than later.